In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.
Johnnie loves his train ("The General") and Annabelle Lee. When the Civil War begins he is turned down for service because he's more valuable as an engineer. Annabelle thinks it's because he's a coward. Union spies capture The General with Annabelle on board. Johnnie must rescue both his loves. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
Based on a true incident during the Civil War. In April 1862 Union agent James J. Andrews led a squad of 21 soldiers on a daring secret raid. Dressed in civilian clothes, Andrews and his men traveled by rail into the Southern states. Their mission was to sabotage rail lines and disrupt the Confederate army's supply chain. At the town of Big Shanty, GA, (now known as Kennesaw, Georgia) the raiders stole a locomotive known as "The General." They headed north, tearing up track, burning covered bridges and cutting telegraph lines along the way. William Fuller and Jeff Cain, the conductor and engineer of "The General," pursued the stolen train by rail and foot. They first used a hand-cart (as Buster Keaton does in the film), then a small work locomotive called "The Yonah," which they borrowed from a railroad work crew, and finally a full-sized Confederate army locomotive called "The Texas," which pursued "The General" for 51 miles--in reverse. During the chase Confederate soldiers were able to repair the sabotaged telegraph wires and send messages ahead of the raiders. Andrews and his men were intercepted and captured near Chattanooga, TN, by a squad of Confederate troops led by Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest (who, after the war, was one of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan). Tried as spies, Andrews and seven of his raiders were hanged (a special gallows was built to hold all eight men). The rest of the raiders were traded in a prisoner exchange. In 1863 the survivors of the mission were awarded the first Medals of Honor (Andrews and the raiders who had been hanged later received the medal posthumously). Although this film is a comedy, the incident was later filmed by Walt Disney as a drama, The Great Locomotive Chase (1956), with Fess Parker--a Southerner, born in Texas--as Andrews. See more »
The pistol Johnnie uses near the end of the film to arrest the Yankee officer in the cab of the General is a Colt revolver from the 1870s. See more »
I haven't had so much fun watching a movie for a long time. The General is a silent comedy (mostly slapstick) about Johnny Gray, a train engineer with two loves: his engine and Annabelle Lee. Annabelle soon dumps him because of his failure to enlist into the Civil War (they would not take him because he was too valuable as an engineer). Things are then sped up a year, where we see some Union commanders planning to hijack a train to unleash a highly sophisticated master plan. As it so happens, they steal Johnny's engine, a big mistake.
Buster Keaton does a phenomenal performance as Johnny. His face and character is ideal for this type of comedy. He reminds me a lot of Leslie Nielsen from the Naked Gun movies (but, of course, less old). He is often ignorant of what is going on around him, leading to plenty of laughs. This also makes him a very charismatic character.
There are countless train related jokes. The first one comes right at the beginning, when we see Johnny being followed by two kids and a woman, in a line much like a train. The bulk of the movie is made up of Johnny running a train, either chasing or fleeing from the Union soldiers. The movement and maneuvering of the trains is beautiful. The stunt work is an incredible accomplishment. The finale is explosive.
The General was a lot of fun to watch. It gave me more laughs than most modern comedies, and had plenty of substance on top of that. This is enough for me to label it as one of the greatest comedies ever. After my first viewing, it instantly became one of my favorites. It is timeless gem that should be watched at least once by anyone interested in movies.
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